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One day, when the battle of Orel was drawing to its
triumphant end and the forward regiments that were
advancing from the north were reporting that from the
Krasnogorsk hills they were able to see the burning city,
Headquarters of the Bryansk Front received a report to
the effect that during the preceding nine days the men of
the Guards Fighter Aircraft Wing that was operating
in that area had shot down forty-seven enemy planes.
Their own losses amounted to five machines and only
three men, as two of the men brought down had bailed
out and had reached their base on foot. Such a victory
was unusual even in those days of the Soviet Army's
swift advance. I got a seat in a liaison plane, that was
flying to the airfield of that wing, with the intention of
getting a story for an article for Pravda on the achieve-
ments of these Guards airmen.
The airfield of this wing was situated in a common
pasture which had been roughly cleared of clumps and
molehills. The planes were hidden like a brood of grouse
chickens on the edge of a young birch wood. In short, it
was a field air strip of the type that was common in the
hectic days of the war.
We landed late in the afternoon, when the wing was
finishing a hard, busy day. The Germans were being
exceptionally active in the air in the area of Orel, and
on that day each fighter plane had made as many as six
combat flights. At sundown, the last planes were returning
from their seventh flight. The colonel, a short tightly-
belted, brisk man with a tanned face, hair carefully part-
ed, and wearing new, blue overalls, frankly confessed that
he was unable to give me a connected story that day, that
he had been at the airfield since six in the morning, that
he had been up three times himself and was so tired that
he could hardly stand. Nor were the other officers in the